Corofin’s five-year reign as Galway SFC champions looked to have ended yesterday, but captain Micheál Lundy rescued them with a equaliser in the fourth minute of added time to force a replay and deny a determined Mountbellew/Moylough at Pearse Stadium.
Mountbellew/Moylough last won the Galway title in 1986 and, after three final defeats since then, it seemed victory was in their grasp when Barry McHugh kicked his fourth point in the 61st minute to push them clear.
However, Corofin showed incredible calmness in the face of defeat. They refused a long-range free in favour of retaining possession and, in the fourth minute of added time, Lundy punched the equaliser.
“It was a super finish to get the score. The game looked like it was probably gone at that time,” said Corofin manager Kevin O’Brien. “Barry [McHugh]’s frees were very important in the game. He nailed a few of them.
That was the difference. They always kept a point ahead of us.
“When we went two points up, we just couldn’t get the third one. Scores were hard got out there. A goal probably would have changed the game.
“The hunger of this team is incredible, given they have been on the go for a long time. Big questions were asked today. There will be big questions again the next day.”
The sides will face off again on Sunday in the replay, but it is unlikely to be as nervous an affair as this one. From the start, Mountbellew/Moylough crowded their defence in an attempt to suffocate the dangerous Corofin forwards, while the All-Ireland champions also fell back into their own half without possession.
After 30 minutes, their plan was working, as they led 0-3 to 0-1, only for Corofin to score the last two points of the opening half to draw level.
All three of Corofin’s scores came from play in that opening period, but as well as scores from Kieran Molloy, Gary Sice and Martin Farragher, they also kicked five poor wides. McHugh kicked two dead balls either side of a brilliant Eoin Finnerty score from the right, but they came very close to hitting the net a minute from the break, when Lundy denied John Daly with a brilliant block on the line.
It was a tight first half, but after the restart, Sice grew into the game and his two points were key to Corofin’s two-point lead after 49 minutes, but they failed to score again until Lundy popped up at the death.
“It was a frantic finish, but Corofin are incredible champions,” said Mountbellew/Moylough manager Michael Donnellan. “They showed it there at the end, where they came back and got that equalising point. When things weren’t going that well for them, they showed their class.
“I’m really proud of these young lads. They are a fantastic group of young lads. They have a great camaraderie and team spirit. You have to just be really proud of them and hand it to them.”
Scorers for Corofin:
G Sice 0-3, L Silke 0-1, K Molloy 0-1, M Lundy 0-1, Martin Farragher 0-1.
Scorers for Mountbellew-Moylough:
B McHugh 0-4 (2f, 0-1’45), P Donnellan 0-1, E Finnerty 0-1, C Ryan 0-1.
B Power; C Silke, K Fitzgerald, L Silke; K Molloy, D McHugh, D Wall; D Burke, R Steede; G Sice, M Lundy, J Leonard; Martin Farragher, Michael Farragher, I Burke.
C Brady for Martin Farragher (36 BC), C Cunningham for Wall (54), D Canney for I Burke (59).
D Boyle; G Sweeney, M Mannion, C Murray; N McDonagh, G Donoghue, J Daly; M Daly, M Barrett; S Boyle, P Donnellan, E Finnerty; C Mannion, B McHugh, L Donnellan.
C Ryan for C Mannion (54), D Hogan for McDonagh (57), B Mannion for S Boyle (61).
James Molloy (Galway).